Prolific winger Julian Savea has been dropped from the All Blacks for the second Test against Wales while fullback Israel Dagg wins a recall.
Despite his tryscoring feats, Savea pays the price for a poor display at Eden Park with Ben Smith shifting from fullback to the right wing and Waisake Naholo swapping flanks to the left wing to accommodate Dagg’s return in Wellington.
It will be the 50th Test for both Dagg and Smith in a side that features one other change to that which won the first Test 39-21 in Auckland.
Veteran lock Sam Whitelock has recovered from a hamstring problem and replaces Luke Romano in the starting pack.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow still hasn’t shaken off a hand injury, meaning TJ Perenara remains the backup halfback on a bench which is unchanged.
Dagg’s selection is a triumph for perseverance, with many believing his most recent Test against South Africa in Johannesburg 11 months ago may have been his last.
The 28-year-old failed to win selection for the World Cup but vowed to fight back, a pledge which suffered a serious hit when he dislocated his shoulder early in Hawke’s Bay’s NPC campaign, sidelining him for a further three months.
This season, with calf and knee injuries seemingly behind him, Dagg has delivered a reminder of his class in a series of showings for the Crusaders.
Smith’s versatility is once again an asset. The 30-year-old has played his last 10 Tests at fullback, but before that has also spent time at wing and centre.
Savea has owned the left wing position in recent years, scoring a remarkable 39 tries in 42 Tests, including one at Eden Park last week.
But he was replaced early in the second half after missing two tackles on Welsh opposite George North, reflecting his patchy form for the Hurricanes this season.
Coach Steve Hansen said Savea was struggling to find his best form.
“There’s a lot happening with Jules and we’re working away quietly.
“We all know he hasn’t had a great season … taking him out of the pressure of having to play and continuing working on the areas we want him to work on we think he’ll benefit from that,” he said.
Hansen is expecting better this week after New Zealand’s mixed opening effort.
“There is an expectation that we will need to improve right across the board, with better accuracy, in both our attack and defence, combined with more physicality and intensity,” he said.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Seta Tamanivalu.